To “fetter” is to restrict or restrain someone or something, usually by using physical or metaphorical chains or other devices. It implies a sense of confinement or limitation that prevents freedom or movement.


US English

UK English

Part of Speech

“Fetter” is a transitive verb.


shackle, bind, chain, tether, tie down.


free, release, liberate, unbind, untie.

Word Forms

Part of Speech Words
Noun fetter, fetters
Verb fetters, fetter, fettering, fettered
Adjective None
Adverb None

Example Sentences

  • The prisoner was fettered to the wall of his cell, unable to move more than a few feet in any direction.

  • The company’s growth was fettered by restrictive regulations that made it difficult to expand into new markets.

  • She felt fettered by her own fears and insecurities, unable to take the risks necessary to achieve her goals.

  • The horse was fettered to a post in the field, grazing contentedly but unable to roam freely.


The word “fetter” is often used in a figurative sense to describe any situation or circumstance that restricts or limits someone’s freedom or ability to act. For example, a person may feel fettered by financial debt, social expectations, or personal insecurities. In some cases, the fetters may be self-imposed, as when a person chooses to conform to societal norms rather than pursue their own dreams and aspirations. In other cases, the fetters may be imposed by external factors, such as oppressive governments, restrictive laws, or economic conditions.

The word “fetter” can also be used in a literal sense, to describe physical restraints such as handcuffs, chains, or ropes. This usage is more common in legal or criminal contexts, such as when a prisoner is fettered to prevent escape or a suspect is fettered during transport to a court hearing.

The term “unfettered” is often used as an antonym to “fettered,” implying a state of freedom or release from constraints. For example, a writer may feel that his creativity is unleashed when he is able to write without fear of censorship or reprisal. Alternatively, a business may experience unfettered growth when it is able to operate without excessive regulation or bureaucratic red tape.

The word “fetter” is derived from the Old English “feter,” which means “chain” or “shackle.” It is related to the Middle Dutch word “vetter,” meaning “chain,” as well as the German word “fetter,” meaning “fat.” The latter sense may have arisen because of the visual similarity between a fatty deposit and a chain or other physical restraint.